Josh Hamilton's All-Star case is in the eye of the beholder

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The K.C. Star’s Sam Mellinger takes issue with folks (like me) who are scratching their heads at the Josh Hamilton selection:

Except here’s the thing: he does deserve it. He deserves it because
the fans say he does. They’re the boss, and sometimes it feels like too
many lose track of that . . . The undisputed highlight of last year’s
event was Hamilton’s jaw-dropping spectacle at the home run derby . . .
That’s what this whole thing is about, and Hamilton delivered, gave us
a moment that we remember a year later, and won’t forget 10 years from
now.

In that sense, Hamilton might be the most deserving All-Star of the bunch.

One of the reasons I try not to get too wrapped up in All-Star
arguments (apart from the fact that the All-Star game has become
something of a joke in concept and execution) is that when people argue
about the players selected, they are usually engaging in apples and
oranges comparisons. Person A thinks that Player 1 shouldn’t have been
picked because he’s not the best player at his position. Person B
thinks that Player 1 should have been picked because he’s the most
famous or popular or something. Or because he’s neither, but boy howdy
did he have a good year last year. Or because he’s about to retire and
kind of deserves a curtain call. There are any number of
justifications, really, and I’m sure you’ve heard them all before.

But those aren’t arguments, really. They’re examples of a
communication breakdown. Why? Because all of those things can be true
at the same time. The real discussion to have is not really over Player
1’s suitability or lack thereof, but what you think the All-Star Game
should be about in the first place, and that argument is often an
afterthought among those who get bent out of shape by the the All-Star
rosters.

If the All-Star Game is a true exhibition for the benefit of the
fans, great, put in Hamilton. Heck, put in Ken Griffey, Jr. for that
matter. People love those guys and on that basis they are certainly
deserving. If it’s about sheer entertainment, how do you not
have Manny Ramirez in there? Because no matter what you think of him as
a person, man, he’s entertaining. If, instead, it’s about first-half
performances none of those guys make it and Matt Kemp isn’t on
the outside looking in and hoping he makes out in the sympathy vote.
If, however, we truly believe the stuff about home field advantage and
“this time it counts!” don’t we have to scrap the
every-team-gets-a-representative rule? Maybe that would stink for Andrew Bailey, but I’m sure whoever represents the AL in the World Series this year would prefer it that way.

The point here isn’t that Josh Hamilton is or is not deserving, the
point is that the All-Star Game represents different things to
different people. Whether Hamilton deserves to be there depends on what
you think the game is all about in the first place. Here Mellinger
asserts that it’s about entertainment, and that’s fine, as long as he’s
consistent with that as it relates to the other selections. But not
everyone feels that way, and no amount of argument is going to convince
someone who thinks that the All-Star Game is a reward for a good
April-July that Hamilton should be there.

It’s probably a good idea to keep that distinction in mind as the arguments rage on through July 14th.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.